LSU AgCenter agents recommend safe tailgating game plan

Mary Ann Van Osdell, Almond, Joan P., Aclin, Connie Q.  |  9/23/2009 6:26:53 PM

Joan Almond, LSU AgCenter nutrition agent, demonstrates a decorated lawn and leaf bag that can be used as a trash receptacle while tailgating. (Photo by Mary Ann Van Osdell. Click on photo for downloadable image.)

News Release Distributed 09/23/09

BOSSIER CITY, La. – Food handling precautions can prevent illness from sidelining football fans who enjoy tailgating, according to LSU AgCenter experts.

A key ingredient to safety is planning. Food-borne illnesses can be avoided by careful preparation and storage, Connie Aclin, an LSU AgCenter nutrition agent, said at Lunch and Ag Discovery, a monthly program of the LSU AgCenter.

“Wash your hands before and after handling food, and keep your food at a safe temperature,” Aclin said. “Bacteria double every 20 minutes.”

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, Aclin said, adding, “Your ice chest is your best friend.”

Aclin suggests two ice chests – one for raw foods and another for beverages so you don’t cross-contaminate your foods.

On a buffet table, hot food should be kept at 140 degrees and never be left out for more than two hours. “It’s like playing Russian roulette,” Aclin said.

To determine whether cooked food is done, use an instant-read thermometer placed in the thickest part of the food, not touching bone, fat or gristle, Aclin said.

She said the recommended temperature is 160 degrees for beef and pork and 165 degrees for chicken and turkey.

“Clean the thermometer really well before you put it back in the sleeve,” Aclin said.

“As food and consumer sciences agents, safety is our No. 1 priority,” said Joan Almond, LSU AgCenter nutrition agent in Webster Parish.

Disposable hand wipes or antibacterial gels should be kept handy, Almond said. She puts 1 tablespoon of bleach in a gallon of water she brings to tailgating functions to kill germs on surfaces and utensils.

“The worst thing that could happen is everyone goes home sick,” Almond said.

She demonstrated preparing items on the menu of an event entitled “Tailgate: South of the Border.” Those included steak fajitas, Spanish rice, roasted peppers, salsa and pralines.

Almond suggested soaking skewers overnight before use and using a thin, long strip of meat instead of a big cube. “Weave the meat in and out of the skewer so it cooks evenly,” she said.

Almond said the flavor on the meat comes from the vegetable next to it and recommended onions and green and red peppers.

Her marinade was made with Italian dressing, fresh cilantro and lime, and she warned against re-using a marinade in which raw meat had been placed.

Almond shared a new find with the group – large lawn and leaf bags that can be used as trash receptacles.

Mary Ann Van Osdell

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